All the people we told about our road trip from Pittsburgh to Florida said that we had to stop in Charleston, S.C. So we did. What they didn’t tell us was that one of the best things about the city was its restaurants.

I could have figured that out on my own, though. Delicious food smells were everywhere. I was surprised by how enticed I was by them, but I was even more delighted by the fact that finally, I wasn’t resentful of the culinary hardships of being a kosher traveler. Finally.Delicious food smells were everywhere

Once upon a time, what I loved most about traveling was enjoying the local delicacies with abandon. For years after we became observant, traveling involved such huge sacrifices of pleasure and convenience that it almost wasn’t worth the effort. When our kids were young, and traveling required bringing along pots and pans and cartons of food, as well as our rambunctious children, we stayed home a lot.

But now, as empty-nesters, the world feels like my oyster again (figuratively, anyway). Now we enjoy different activities when we travel to places without kosher restaurants. Sometimes, we’ll sit on a bench and people-watch—no, we’ll Jew-watch. During our stay in Charleston, we met an Israeli family and a French juif selling tablecloths at the historic City Market. (It’ll be a bonus if we actually end up using the tablecloth.)

And we don’t go hungry. If the lettuce holds up and the dressing doesn’t leak, the most gourmet item will be chicken salad on a bed of mixed greens. Because it’s just the two of us traveling, the food can be simple. (It must be ample, though; the kosher traveler should always be prepared to fall off the map for a day or two.) And there’s no lowering kosher standards just because we’re away from home. Our standards include keeping chalav Yisrael, eating milk products prepared under Jewish supervision only, which means that our dairy items are typically available only in kosher stores.

For this trip, eating chalav Yisrael translated into traveling with a stack of cheese slices (cheese can withstand almost anything) and almond milk instead of regular milk. Because almond milk is available everywhere, we could enjoy basics like cereal and coffee without having to ration our milk. Of course, it’s always good to plan for the worst-case scenario, like if the electric cooler that plugs into the cigarette lighter socket malfunctions completely. (All fruits and vegetables are kosher, and you can get kosher nuts almost anywhere.)

There are some material benefits to traveling in kosher style. Not eating in restaurants saves money and calories. And I don’t miss having to decide which restaurant to go to, always questioning if the other one would have been better. Also, eating in our hotel room leaves more time to Jew-watch and more money to buy tablecloths!

The The spiritual benefits are even greaterspiritual benefits are even greater, although they took longer to appreciate. Keeping kosher felt close to martyrdom for me in our early years of observance, and keeping kosher when traveling only rubbed it in. But it was what I had to do for G‑d. It would be my mesirat nefesh, my self-sacrifice, for Him.

That may sound pathetic compared to the real sacrifices Jews have made for G‑d throughout the millennia, but here’s something to ponder: G‑d appreciates that people in our generation, being so far removed from Torah’s revelation, couldn’t withstand the tests of our spiritually hardier ancestors. Which means that our small efforts mean more to G‑d.

Even so, I’m never sure if I’m living up to my spiritual potential. For now, I’m grateful that it’s finally a joy to travel in kosher style, hopeful that it means I’m getting somewhere after all.